Leadership

Travel Groups' App Turns Traffic Jams Into Advocacy

By / Jul 1, 2014 (Associations Now illustration/iStock/Thinkstock)

The U.S. Travel Association, working with Building America’s Future, is promoting an app that may come in handy during the busy Fourth of July weekend: It allows people to send messages to their congressional representatives when they’re stuck in traffic, whether in a car, bus, train, or plane. The goal? To boost infrastructure funding.

In case a delayed flight or a highway-turned-parking-lot ruins your travel plans this weekend, two travel groups want you to know that, yes, there’s an app for that.

Building America’s Future, a bipartisan infrastructure-advocacy coalition cochaired by three big-name politicians—former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell—is partnering with the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) to draw fresh attention to the coalition’s “I’m Stuck” app.

The idea goes something like this: If you’re stuck on a highway, you might use an app like Waze to inform other travelers that they’re about to run into a major backup. I’m Stuck, on the other hand, allows users to send messages to their members of Congress, letting them know they’re mired in traffic, delayed at the airport, or even facing a long wait on the subway.

Frustrated citizens can either use one of the app’s prewritten messages or compose their own note. (That said, the app’s creators don’t recommend writing while driving.)

Americans just aren’t as free to move around as they would like as a result of this ailing infrastructure.

Attention Through an App

By putting the app directly in the hands of people at the very moment when they’re facing such annoyances, the coalition hopes to pressure Congress to pass new infrastructure-funding bills, such as the recently introduced GROW AMERICA Act, and to provide new funding for the federal Highway Trust Fund, which is expected to run out of money soon.

According to a USTA survey released last month, travel delays are having a significant impact on air travel in particular, causing 38 million people to forgo domestic flights in 2013. The biggest reasons respondents cited for air travel frustrations were delays and cancellations (39 percent) and airline fees (26 percent).

The survey follows previous research by the association that implied that Thanksgiving-style airport congestion could happen year-round and that Labor Day traffic headaches could become more common without infrastructure investment.

“Americans just aren’t as free to move around as they would like as a result of this ailing infrastructure,” USTA Chairman Jim Abrahamson said in a conference call Tuesday. “And our economy is already suffering as a result, with more harm on the way.”

Leveraging the Travel Industry

Building America’s Future launched the “I’m Stuck” app last July, but the coalition is leveraging USTA’s wide reach and resources to draw new users—including through hotels, convention and visitors bureaus, paid advertising, and a wide social media campaign. (Already, Marriott International President and CEO Arne Sorenson has given the app a shoutout in a LinkedIn blog post.)

The coalition’s Rendell noted that people in every state have downloaded the app so far, and those users have sent 15,000 messages. “We need to bring this home as dramatically and as graphically as we can to the members of Congress,” Rendell said in the conference call.

The app is available through iTunes and Google Play stores.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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